In 2007, Alice Pulford went on a teaching placement for 5 months and fell in love with Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city. Captured by the desperate need for effective aid, she returned the same year with some funds the family had raised. This is when Alice was introduced to Mercy and Benson, by their nephew Spiwe Zulu.
Mercy had already registered Tilinanu as a community based organisation in 2002, with the Malawian Government Porridge Fund. This enabled her to start providing food for over 400 children, who used to gather daily on her land in Area 49.
Mercy’s vision was to build a safe place for the vulnerable girls to be loved and cared for – either orphans or children with parents unable to support them. Alice and Mercy began working together, with funds Alice had been left by her late grandfather and her inspiration Alan Pulford. Very quickly the Mkandawires and Pulfords were intertwined and driven towards the same goal to house these children. An abandoned church, with only 3 walls and no roof on the family land was to be be turned into the orphanage.
Over 8 weeks, Alice, her older sister Nina, their mother Yvonne, and some helping hands, set to work, and on Saturday 29th August 2009, Tilinanu Orphanage as a home was opened.
After Mercy and Benson passed we continued working with Tilinanu Malawi.
In 2020 the Malawian Government gave the advice that children over the age of 18 and who are living in an institutional setting should be reintegrated into communities, that children are better placed in a local environment with their extended family.
As part of the exit strategy, Tilinanu engaged a Reintegration Specialist to help liaise with the Social Welfare Department and the Ministry of Gender to ensure the best outcome for each of the Tilinanu girls.
The advice from the Social Welfare has been that we should support the girls to the end of secondary school.
The process involved visits to any relatives the girls may have.
However, following inspection, it highlighted the desperate state of the living accommodation in which the girls were expected to go back to.
Following this, we had to look at alternative solutions.
Social wefare advised local level boarding school, as many girls could not return to their villages. They also advised us this should be done through a partner organisation, with experience handling scholarship places for the children nationwide.
As many children as possible will be educated in their birth district.
We have begun to work with Africa Vision Malawi to deliver this as they have had 14 years of experience. We continue to work with the Tilinanu Malawi trustee board, to ensure the Tilinanu building will always be used for charitable purposes.
The video below shows the reintegration process and just how far we have come with your support and speaks volumes about the love Tilinanu is built on.